Advertising On Social Media: A Soaring Success Or A Frivolous Failure

Joel Course's picture
| 4th July 2019
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Working in the volatile and mysterious world of digital has become a major element of all businesses. For many, this starts and ends with the creation of a website. Many entrepreneurs see the website as a one-off commodity that they invest in, in order to be able to achieve the criterium of being on the internet. But having a website is not the only way your business can achieve an online presence. Social media is the website’s younger and more energetic cousin, with a huge variety and multitude of platforms offering a limitless way to express your brand.

Without fuelling this blog post with too many youthful stereotypes, the mere mention of social media can send a shiver down the spine of many older entrepreneurs. Much like having a website that you don’t update periodically, setting up a social media account that you don’t frequent with posts will result in a useless account that reflects badly on your brand.

For those who choose to take the deep dive into the world of Facebooks and Twitters and decide to construct a detailed account with regular, thoughtful posts, social media can be an incredibly useful digital avenue for business. Social media at its best is a simple method in gaining leads, and at its worst is an effective way to boost the awareness of your brand.

Whether you are persistent poster or a fearful first timer, there will come a time when you want to increase the output of your social platforms, be that to grow your following, to improve engagement, or to increase the number of conversions. From a business perspective, the natural route to turn to is investment, and each of the major social media platforms offer methods of advertising directly on their networks.

For those with a lack of experience in the department of social media, it can be incredibly enticing seeing how your £500 investment will reach an audience of 1 billion people, filling you with the adulation that your investment is about to make your business the next big internet sensation. In reality however, this is not the case. So, in this blog post, I will take a look at the four most popular social platforms and their respective advertisement offerings, to help you make a more informed decision before you invest.

Finding your feet with Facebook

Usually when you ask someone to name a social media platform, it’s a safe bet that one of their first answers will be the Mark Zuckerbergian empire that is Facebook. With over 2 billion monthly users, it is by far the most popular social media network and its ability to connect people together is ultimately unrivalled. It is no wonder therefore that it is typically the first stop for those who want to pay for advertisements on social media.

Advertisements shown on Facebook are done so through Ads Manager, the social platform’s internal interface for creating campaigns. The only prerequisite in advertising on the social platform is that you have a business profile page – you cannot advertise from your own personal account. Like many other online advertisers, Facebook allows you to set a total advertising budget for your marketing endeavours, which is then broken down to daily budgets and bids. There is a range of objectives on offer for Facebook, which include:

  • Driving traffic
  • Increasing the number of leads generated
  • Increasing engagement
  • Increasing the number of views of a video
  • Increasing the number of installs of a particular app

These objectives are then further refined by a specific audience. With over 2 billion users, the most effective campaigns will not be sending ads to all, but to a tailored and engaged audience. Facebook uses what it calls Facebook Core Audiences, which allows you to target specific users based on various factors including: location, demographics, interests, specific behaviours, and certain connections. From these audiences, Facebook also boasts of the ability to assemble what it calls Lookalike Audiences: those people who are similar to those who you are targeting but do not fall into every predefined bracket.

Having set up how much you are spending, and who you intend to target, your next step will be to create your ads. Facebook ads will appear as native content in your audience’s feeds, with the only difference between it and a picture of your school friend’s latest trip to Bali, being a small label to signal that the content is sponsored. This means that the ad formats on offer are quite creative, in order to be able to fit in with a users’ feed:

  • Photo Ads – Simple ads that consist of a photo and a call to action.
  • Video Ads – Similar to Photo Ads, but can consist of vertical content to fill a phone screen.
  • Stories Ads – Will appear as a user views a story and takes advantage of the vertical video type.
  • Messenger Ads – Will appear as if another conversation in your Messenger App, opening up to an interactive call to action.
  • Carousel Ads – Allow you to showcase ten images or videos in a single ad.
  • Slideshow Ads – Although appearing to be a video, these ads are a culmination of images and audio that automatically roll on after each other.
  • Collection Ads – Especially relevant if you are a retailer, allowing a primary video or image to be followed by a smaller four image grid showing specific related items.
  • Playables Ads – Ideal for app-related advertisement, these ads allow you to preview an app before installing it.

These creatives allow to create engaging ads that Facebook users may be more likely to click on.

Increase your interactions with Instagram

As a subsidiary of Facebook, it should come as no surprise that there is no great difference (if any) when advertising on Instagram. Advertising on this platform again requires the prerequisite of having a Facebook business page for your campaign to be created in Ads Manager. The social platform shares both the overriding objectives of increasing brand awareness or driving conversions, alongside the targeting options that Facebook offers.  

The ad formats for Instagram, being a photograph-based social media platform, lie with the visual. Advertisers can opt for photo ads, video ads, stories ads, carousel ads and collection ads. Again these are placed into the feeds of your targeted audiences as natural content, although labelled as a paid promotion.

So why choose Instagram over Facebook if their offering is essentially the same? The answer lies in who you intend to target. The social platform currently boasts of about 1 billion monthly users, with the majority ranging between 18-29. In terms of advertising these audiences have a much higher engagement rate, so if your product or service is tailored to a younger market and you hope to raise awareness of your brand, Instagram could be the way to go.

Treading towards success with Twitter

With over 300 million average monthly users, Twitter should by no means be underestimated when it comes to investing in advertisements on social media. Twitter Ads are the platform’s paid alternative to promoting and growing your presence online, and its various objectives reflect this overall goal. Ads on Twitter allow you to promote your own tweets to increase engagement, promote your own Twitter account to increase you following, and promote your own website or app to increase conversions. Much like the advertisements on other platforms, Twitter Ads are typically placed in a users’ timeline to act as native content, only to be identified by an inconspicuous ‘sponsored’ label.

There is no minimum spend for your Twitter advertising campaigns - a marketer will only have to assign a daily budget. From this daily budget, ads run on an auction-based system, in which you only pay for an interaction, which could be a click on an advert or a new follower for example. Rather than advertising to millions of uninterested users, Twitter also allows the refining of a campaign through the application of audience targeting.

Much like Instagram appealing to a relatively younger audience, Twitter has its own typical remit. The social platform remains a popular space for organic engagement, in which a following is more willing to interact with whom they follow, and is a primary platform for breaking news and the interaction of well-known individuals. Paying for adverts to promote a specific ecommerce product may not be the best approach therefore, as this platform will engage more with those campaigns which drive brand awareness.

Leading the way with LinkedIn

If Facebook and Instagram are the more laid-back cousins, and Twitter the more politically engaged aunt, then LinkedIn is the energetic and entrepreneurial uncle. Despite being a unique social platform that tailors to the B2B market, LinkedIn still boasts of an average monthly usership just shy of 300 million. It is the entrepreneur’s favourite forum through which they share their idealistic theories and approaches, and their state-of-the-art services. And the paid advertising on the platform amplifies these ideas.

Through the platform’s Campaign Manager, a LinkedIn user uses their personal account to create an Ad Account. Each ad account is unique and must be assigned a company page – again, you must advertise as a company. In this account, you can create various campaigns based on three types of ads:

  • Sponsored Content - Native advertising which appears in the LinkedIn feeds of targeted users.Advertising On Social Media: A Soaring Success Or A Frivolous Failure
  • Sponsored InMail - Unique, personalised ads which are delivered to targeted users through LinkedIn Messenger.
  • Text Ads - Simple ads which appear on the outskirts of the LinkedIn page.

Each ad type is tailored to slightly different objectives from general brand awareness to more direct appeals for conversions. Campaigns are assigned a daily budget, and the cost of ads are auctioned per interaction such as cost per click, cost per impression and cost per send. As the primary platform for business people, the targeting of these campaigns reflects this market. The creation of your target audience can include or exclude a range of personal factors including what company you work for, the seniority of your position, how many years’ experience you have, and your interests among many others.

General social media advertising tips

It is clear that there are certain social media platforms for certain users and objectives, and this list is anything but exhaustive. In taking in all of this information there are three tips you should take away before you blindly hand your investment as sacrifice to Mr Zuckerberg:

  1. Social Media Advertising Is Expensive!
    Compared to other forms of digital advertising such as promoting on Google or Bing, the average cost per click is very high in comparison. This has to be taken into account; that your investment may not go a very long way – not that this should put you off.
  2. The Higher The Budget, The Further The Reach!
    I mean obviously, but hear me out! There is little point in wasting away a small monthly budget if the social platform will not allow you to reach enough people; it may be more prudent to invest more in a shorter period of time.
  3. Make Sure Your Ads Are Creative!
    I’ve discussed in this blog post the userships of the respective social platforms, and in discussing the millions/billions of people, your ads will be easily lost if you think whacking together an image and some text is good enough. You’ll have to be super creative to stand out.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to social media marketing, and for many this can be pretty daunting. If you would like any help in starting up your social media campaign or to further optimise your existing promotions, contact SilverDisc today!

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